Parrot looks set to drag car stereos kicking and screaming into the 21st century with the Asteroid -- an in-dash head unit powered by the Google operating system.
Android, we're happy to report, looks set to give the Parrot Asteroid an edge over ordinary 'dumb' stereos, including the ability to download apps, Web-based music, advanced voice recognition, real-time traffic updates and some clever location-based services.
Parrot intends to allow users to download a huge variety of apps via the Android Market. Nothing has been confirmed as yet, but the Asteroid should be able to download apps such as Spotify, giving users access to an almost incomprehensibly large library of on-demand music anywhere they drive.
There's also the possibility for apps that can show you nearby parking spaces, help you avoid traffic jams, locate speed cameras or listen to Internet radio stations. The possibilities -- as anyone who owns an Android mobile phone will tell you -- are constrained only by your 3G signal, which might suffer at 70mph but should be fairly good when you're pootling through town.
The Asteroid comes with three USB ports, which can accomodate a USB 3G dongle as well as a GPS dongle. These work together to power the built-in Parrot Maps app -- a cartography service that locates your vehicle and identifies nearby streets and businesses. You could find, for example, the nearest branch of a particular shop, and get real-time traffic updates that analyse the proximity of other Asteroid-using drivers.
Android's clever voice-recognition features give the Asteroid an edge, too. Users should, theoretically, be able to speak almost any command and verbally search for tracks, artists or genres across all peripherals connected to the stereo.
Parrot says the Asteroid will let you play music stored on a USB key, iPod or SD card, or online radio stations. Music can also be sent to the system via mobile phones or MP3 players that support stereo Bluetooth (A2DP).,
The Parrot Asteroid should be available in the UK in the first quarter of this year for an as yet undisclosed price. Watch this space for more info.